- Associated Press - Saturday, June 30, 2018

PLYMOUTH, N.H. (AP) - The two Democratic candidates for New Hampshire governor fired away at two Republicans during their first forum on Saturday - Gov. Chris Sununu and President Donald Trump.

Molly Kelly, a former five-term state senator from Harrisville, and former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand, mostly agreed on policy at the event organized by the group Rights and Democracy. But they criticized the two Republicans on state and national issues.

The candidates slammed the Trump administration for separating families that enter the United States illegally.

Kelly criticized recent Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency checkpoints in the Granite State, saying “as governor, I will stand up and say we do not need your deportation forces here in New Hampshire. They are not welcome.”

Marchand, the son of immigrants from Quebec, touted his plan to make New Hampshire a “sanctuary state” and vowed that he will speak “up with incredible force in favor of the positive power of immigration.”

The two also highlighted the importance protecting women’s reproductive rights following Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s announcement this week that he will retire this summer.

Kelly argued this is now a “critical issue” in the gubernatorial campaign. She said of herself, “there is no one running in this office for governor who has fought harder, been an advocate, and worked every single day to make sure that women have access to safe and legal abortions.”

Marchand vowed “100% protection of a women’s right to make her own decisions.”

Sununu, New Hampshire’s first GOP governor in a dozen years, repeatedly came under fire at the forum.

Kelly said she was “appalled” by Sununu’s push for a school voucher program. “It is wrong for New Hampshire,” she said.

Marchand targeted the governor for taking contributions from Eversource, the energy company behind the controversial Northern Pass energy transmission lines.

Chris Sununu loves Northern Pass so much, it’s like he’s getting paid to love it. And it’s because he is. Tens of thousands of dollars,” Marchand said.

Marchand and Kelly vowed to tackle the state’s opioid epidemic. Both candidates also said they supported legalizing recreational marijuana; universal background checks for purchasing firearms; collective bargaining rights for unions; and a $15 per hour minimum wage. They are opposed to the work requirements in the new five-year extension of the state’s Medicaid expansion program.

While neither candidate took aim at each other, Kelly twice pointed out that “I am the only candidate in this race who has not taken one dollar in corporate contributions.”

Marchand, who is making his second consecutive bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, announced this week that he had returned $14,000 in corporate contributions, after criticism by the Kelly campaign.

The winner of the Sept. 11 primary will face off against Sununu in November’s election.


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